Synoptic Project/ Bottled Up #11 – MVP Analysis

Our MVP has evolved a lot since the birth of our project. As is life, things didn’t work out how we had planned, things had to be cut and changes had to be made. This blog post will take a look at these details – discussing where we are now compared to where we wanted to be. In short, we had a set vision in mind when it came to our MVP:

– Beginning can lead two ways with one resulting in a druid quest and the other resulting in a witch quest.
– 70% main quests, 30% side quests
– Check list/completion percentage on inventory menu
– Learn More Spells As The Game Progresses
Quests Are Rated Out Of 3 Stars
Characters With Available Quests Have A Pulsing Exclamation Mark
– Once within a certain radius of the character the option to open the quest will appear. Once open the character will have a pop up menu with the quest details, rewards and accept/decline.

We also wanted the following branching quest:

Wake Up:
1. Investigate Camp (Learn Movement)
2. Find Light Source (Carry Lamp Around When Dark)
Two Exits:
1. Leads To Cottage With Nice Old Man, Asks For You To Deliver Letter To Druid In Town
2. Sketchy Man In Forest By Campfire Asks For You To Deliver Stolen Item To Witch In Town.
Learn Light Spell:
1. Druid
2. Witch

The things I have marked in bold are what we actually ended up having in the MVP. My point being that plans change massively. Our MVP deviates from our original plan massively and that is part of the beauty of it. The games industry is chaotic and our plans reflect that.

Although completely different to our plan, the MVP has turned our well. I’m happy with what we have created and I’m proud of it. We were extremely ambitious at first and that’s fine but we quickly realized that and simplified plans to adjust to something more reasonable.

We have already hit the MVP deadline. All that needs to be done to the MVP – in my eyes- is some bugfixes which I shall work on before the 5th April.

Ideally, in the MVP, we will have two separate modes: the one we submitted to BAFTA and a WIP scene where we are experimenting with taking the game in a new direction with a new character. The new scene will be there just to show what we are working on at the moment.

In order to help us reach our MVP, I will complete the few bug fixes that need to be done in order to get the scene ready for the 5th April MVP submission.

1
2

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Until next time,
Luke

Synoptic Project/ Bottled Up #10 – Project Check + Overhaul / New Direction

A few days ago was the day of our first official project. Previous checks looked at our pre-production only but this one takes a look at the project itself. Here is the feedback we received:

“You project has come along really well and most things that need improvement is stuff you have in the works that just need updating. Your post BAFTA production schedule need completing and your Hack and plan updated accordingly. You have these in the works now so I will have no doubt you will have them sorted soon. Plan for artbook looks good. Make sure your making the most of your space, and it would be nice to have a couple page layout variations. I hope to see a few more completed pages soon. Your scrim evidence is good, just make sure you have a form that all members can accesses it easily. You project overall is looking amazing and I can’t wait to see how it will improve as time goes on.”

As the feedback says, the improvements aren’t even truly improvements as they were already in the works at the time of the check. We are treating both the BAFTA version of Bottled Up & the synoptic verison as standalone products. They are essentially going to be two seperate projects and we have planned the entire project that way. Hence, we have a burndown and production schedule for each and we won’t be using one that includes both. The feedback essentially boils down to the fact that the BAFTA deadline was a few days ago and I didn’t have time to complete the production schedule or update the Hack n Plan for the synoptic deadline. The other piece of feedback was that I need to scan in our scrums as we write everything down in my notebook rather than type up a scrum sheet. Overall, it was some solid feedback where all issues will be rectified within a week.

However, in terms of what might be next for the game, it’s an exciting time for Bottled Up. BAFTA places a lot of restrictions on what you can and cannot include in submissions and that clipped our wings from the offset. We weren’t originally going to have Wladmir be a master of magic; we wanted Wladmir to be a rough, vicious warrior but the lack of allowed violence threw a spanner in the works. Now that BAFTA has concluded, the reins are off and we really want the project to show that. The hope is that – when compared to its BAFTA counterpart – the synoptic version will be completely different. We have sat and planned this thoroughly and we have agreed that Bottled Up will be receiving a complete overhaul.

For a start, story is going to take a back seat. It doesn’t make any sense to go for a fully story driven game when we don’t have an animator between us. Hence, the focus is going to be on gamplay and visuals from this point forward. Additionally, Nath is completely redesigning the main character. Here is what we have thus far in terms of planning:

planning

My primary focus for the next few months is to get a movement system that feels great that is coupled with an extremely snappy. fast paced but most importantly fun combat system that promises to provide a much better gameplay experience. The reason this is the case is because we aim to make the game more about progressing and fighting as we aim to add quite a few more bosses that each pose a unique threat to Wladmir. Other than that. I’m mainly just programming the system through which you progress as well as adding the AI for new bosses and NPCs. Quests will most likely be dumbed down massively to become more like fetch quests than full on story quests.

I love the amount of communication going on within my team at the moment and it is for this reason that I know that the game will turn out exactly how we envisioned it. In terms of where we are at now, Nath is working on completely redesigning the main character, I’m working on overhauling both the player and camera movement and Bailey is creating assets to fit within the town. I have no complaints with our team and I feel like this second stretch of the project will breath new life into it. It’s a gamble when you go in a different direction than you were originally going but I know it will pay off in this case.

Until next time,
Luke

Synoptic Project/Bottled Up #9 – Feedback From Gary

A crucial part in the development of the BAFTA incarnation of Bottled Up was feedback. As with any product, feedback is crucial and we ensured to get plenty of that. In this post, I’ll simply show the feedback we received – detaling how we acted on it. The first round of feedback came from NextGenSun’s Twitter account where they had they discussed the following improvements:
– Bloom is a bit much.
– Solid colour UI needs to go
– UI is spaced inconsistently in places
– Needs a tutorial
– Town is really flat and looks WIP

Acting on this feedback, we did the following:
– Nath continues to adjust the post processing as it is the type of thing that always gets tweaks.
– Bailey’s first batch of UI was added and it replaced the default colours and such.
– We are now much more careful when placing UI as the spacing needs to be consistent.
– We have added a system where game mechanics are explained as the game progresses. It’s very early days but the true form of bottled up will be the synoptic version.
– The town has been removed from the BAFTA version as it was simply not needed.

The second feedback session we had was with Gary. Gary playtested the game and and had quite a few requests from a gamer’s perspective:

As you can see, we got quite the list of things to do and we set out to do them all. I’ll now go through each to show you where we got to:
– Gary suggested that we move the camera higher up if we are planning on keeping purely horizontal camera movement. I did sit and talk to Ant for roughly half an hour to try and find a way to add vertical orbit to the system we had and we just couldnt get it in the way we had wanted. Hence, it was shelved until after the BAFTA version. Therefore, we ended up just moving the camera up.
– This was a recurring theme with our feedback. Our game was lacking any form of player tutorial which meant it would be difficult for a new player to find out what to do. This was something we had already intended to add and the repeated request for it just reinforced how badly it was needed. In the end, we did add tutorials for things like walking, setting a fire and navigating the inventory etc.
– Beacons were going to be a way to show where the player’s next point of interest is. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and didn’t manage to get Nath’s beacon particle implemented so this is another feature that’ll be Synoptic exclusive.
– Gary wanted to be able to set spells with the number keys. This was actually already implemented alongside scrollwheel navigation but the numpad wasn’t. I quickly fixed this by adding the numpad number keys also to change spells.
– During Gary’s playthrough, this strange bug occured where the camera would slowly move downwards and would eventually end up at the player’s feet. This was quite a bad bug and I was able to fix it by making the lerp more snappy. Its misplacement was due to simply not lerping quickly enough.
– Fixing the jump was something I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. Unfortunately, in terms of priority, it was nowhere near the top and took a backseat to other tasks. Jumps are typically easy and the one we have now works. However, the animation is never synced up with the actual movement and this is because the jump instantlychanges your y translation. With that being said, it wasn’t needed so we cut it from the BAFTA version and will have a much smoother character controller overall in the synoptic version.
– Due to the PEGI 12 rating of BAFTA, we were advised to remove weaponry. We replaced it with a wand.
– The weird light we had previously was something we tested out yet didn’t work out but we just never got round to removing it. When Gary saw it, he suggested replacing it with a companion that relays the afore mentioned tutorials to you. We did just that.
– The cutscene time was literally just changing a variable.
– The pop ups were there all along, the canvas was just accidentally left as inactive during the build made for Gary’s playthrough.
– The quest animations refer to the pulsing effect seen on the scrolls. After putting Bailey’s UI in, the pulsing was off scalewise so we reanimated.

As you can see, we have been working really well as a team to power through bug fixes and other happenings. We are all on track and all has been going well. Alongside this, Nath has been drafting what our artbook pages will look like and has thus far produced a title page and an example render page:

BottledUpCover.png
The Title Page


BottledUpArtBookPageConcept.png
An example forest render sheet

These have grown on me a lot and I think Nath has done an incredible job with these. They are colourful, professional and most importantly suitable for our game and its theme. The game looks visually stunning and I know that the artbook will reflect that too. We received a bit of feedback on this as Ben suggested we add more randomness to the patterns on the different pages so it isn’t the same pattern and formation on each page which is fair enough. He also suggested we make better use of the space on the page as Nath is kind of selling himself short with how small his renders are on the page. I agree with this comment as there is a lot of space left that could be used to highlight the quality of the work produced.

Until next time,

Luke


Synoptic Project/ Bottled Up #8 – Summary Of Progress Since Last Post Pt 2

This is part 2 of my summary of all progress since my last blog post. To kick things off yet again, I’ll show the highlight video:

In this post, I’ll cover the following:
– Tutorial Prompts
– Menu Systems

Firstly, a major problem with our game was how it didn’t really teach the player how to play. This was pointed out in various rounds of feedback and we did act on it. We wanted to make sure the player knew all of the controls which we did in multiple ways. Many games get it right where they gradually tell you how to use certain mechanics and I didn’t want our game to differentiate from that.

Hence, we have a system where prompts pop up at various times during the course of the game. These teach you how to do the game’s main mechanics such as how to cast spells, how to work the inventory and how to equip spells. These prompts are crucial to helping the player to understand the game and how it works.

To go alongside this, I finally got around to creating a main menu for the game which I put off for quite some time as it isnt the most exciting thing to create. We wanted it to be in the same scene as the level and we achieved that in the end. It was more complicated than the clear cut main menus I am used to but it’s that fact that made me learn more in regards to setting up different types of menu and I feel like I am much more savvy when it comes to menus now. The menu in question includes the typical features of a menu such as a controls screen, an options screen and an option to quit. We also included our credits too.

In terms of options, we gave the player the chance to change settings such as the camera FOV, the game’s soundtrack volume, the sound effects volume and the resolution.

The rest of the team have also been progressing massively alongside me with a notable addition being that of Nath’s graveyard scene.

AllAssets
Coffin
Graves
Gate

Nath never fails to disappoint when it comes to the models he produces for the game and I am glad that Nath is a 3D artist on the team. We legitimately haven’t had any issues when it comes to the game as issues were solved long before they even became issues. With that being said, the steady pace of programming additions and 3D art additions means that the game is coming along nicely.

In terms of our documentation, we actually came up with a list of things that ought to be completed by the time the BAFTA deadline rolls around. This revised list aimed to give us all a clear idea of what we should be aiming to complete within the few weeks we had left.

aye mate

As you can see, we each had a decent amount of things to focus on and make better by the deadline which I’ll detail more in the next post.

As always, we remain ahead of schedule and we are falling behind in any way. I geneuinely couldnt fault the way we have approached every task with 100% and we gave every task our all.

Until next time,
Luke

Synoptic Project/ Bottled Up #7 – Summary Of Progress Since Last Post Pt 1

It has been a while since I have properly posted about Bottled Up and our progress with the game; I wanted to focus on completing my tasks rather than writing about it. With that being said, the BAFTA deadline has been and gone now and my regular work schedule will resume. There have been HEAPS of progress within the game since I last posted as it has been over a month so I’ll be compacting and summarizing these changes within numerous lengthy posts as I feel like this is more effective than trying to remember the order in which they were done. I’ll begin by showing the video that we submitted as our supporting video to BAFTA.

Lets start by listing the things I added that will be covered within the post:

  • Levitation Spell
  • Stun Spell
  • Mana Cost
  • Switching Spells
  • Cooldowns

I’ll start with the mana cost of spells as – without a mana cost – the spells would be massively overpowered. Thus, I wanted to start balancing the game from the start. The idea we had from the start was that the default spell would cost no mana at all. Any other spells would cost mana. I implemented this pretty quickly as it is just a case of adding an if statement that checks if you have enough mana. Additionally, I also made it so that you may regain mana through the use of mana potions. Of course, this wasn’t a foolproof way of getting a good balance when it came to the combat.

I also realized that cooldowns were needed greatly as – should you have no mana – the game would allow you just to spam the default attack which is far from ideal. With that being said, I gave each spell its own cooldown timer that prevented it from being fired until the time is up. Naturally, the more powerful spells had the longer cooldowns whereas the default attack had only a 1 second cooldown.

Now, onto the actual spells. I started with the levitation spell first and foremost as it sounded like the funnest to do. I was right. It was an extremely fun and rewarding process to incorporate fully fledged spells into the game. The concept is simple: you hit an enemy, they rise up before being dropped face first having been planted into the floor. This spell is great at evening the odds as it temporarily removes a singular enemy from the fight as it suspends them in the air for a few seconds.

As for the stun spell, I wanted this one to be more of a crowd control spell as variety is the spice of life. The stun spell also works how it should with the spell hitting somewhere – stunning everything within a certain radius. This spell is extremely powerful but also extremely expensive mana wise.

Finally, I needed a way to switch between the two with ease. Firstly, I started with a system that allowed you to switch using the number keys on the alphanumerical part of the keyboard. At the request of Nath, I also added a scrollwheel navigation system that allowed you to easily cycle through using just the mouse. Finally, I added the numpad numbers at the request of Gary. The scrollwheel method is the best method in my opinion but giving the player a choice is always a good option which is what we have catered for.

In terms of what the rest of the team has been doing, Nath has been developing the interior of the old man’s house which is explorable within the game. As always, Nath has produced an asset that is of extremely high quality.

Nath’s Old Man Interior
Nath’s Old Man Interior

The team’s progress has been incredible throughout the project with us achieving most goals we set ourselves. We are constantly talking over any additionally features before we add them ensuring that we all agree on everything being added. Nath and I agreed that ,for confined areas such as the old man’s house, we should switch the camera so that it isn’t the regular 3rd person camera follow as that glitches through walls and such in a small space.

As you can see, we have been powering through what we need to do.

As I have already stated, progress is rapid and we have been doing more than enough to keep ahead of schedule.

As you can see, progress is steady and we have not been behind schedule once.

There haven’t really been issues with the team aside from a dilemma regarding file size which was sorted after a discussion. We ultimately agreed that the town should be removed from the BAFTA version as we hadn’t had time to finish it and I’d rather have it not in at all than it being in the game in an incomplete state.

Until next time,
Luke

Bottled Up/Synoptic Project #6 – Combat System Very Early Prototype, Goblins, Infrastructure Changes

It has been quite sometime since I posted an update on Bottled Up so I figured now would be a good time to do so. I’ll begin by posting a video of the most recent update of the game:

Heaps Of Progress Can Be Seen In This Video

I’ll begin with a quick rundown of some major changes since the last update:

-Redesigned quest system to accommodate x amount of objectives (Me)UI Switchup (Me)

Prototype of combat system where goblins follow within a range yet do not attack (Me)

Equipping & Switching Inventory Weapons (ME)

Particles for mana and health boost (Nath)

Aiming camera movement (Me)

Y-Axis Camera Rotation (Me)

Heaps Of Forestry Level Design (Nath)

Goblins (Nath)

Of these, in terms of what I’ve done, the combat system is proving to be a really fun challenge for me. With a combination of Raycasts and actual projectiles, I managed to create a default attack that works exactly how I set out for it to. I’m really proud of it thus far and I also like how the goblin reacts to being hit as it really drives home the impact. Couple this with some particles and we could really be onto something. I’m going to improve this by adding some spells that are not default. The idea is that this default attack will be much weaker yet will cost no mana whereas there will be some unique spells that are much stronger yet cost mana. Among these, I plan on adding a levitation spell as well as a stun spell among others.

The final mechanic I’ll go over in detail is the goblin AI thus far. So far, the goblin will follow the player if they are within a certain radius and will stop when they exit said radius. Also, they will stop if they get so close which is when they’d attack in the completed version. To improve this system, I’m going to add two types of goblin: one that throws poison from a distance and one that attacks up close.

Overall, as a team, we are working really well and me and Nath have worked incredibly hard to bring what was once only a vision to life in-engine. Nath has been working on creating 3 staffs from concept art which can be seen below:

A collection of 3 staffs created by Nathan Richardson

As well as this, Nath was the brains behind our first enemy: The Goblin Race:

The Goblins created by Nathan Richardson

Meanwhile, Bailey is still creating the town tileset whilst I’ve been tying up loose ends programming wise to polish the overall experience whilst also building the foundations of a combat system. In terms of what’s next for us, Nath will be modelling the interior of the old man’s house, I’ll be finishing up the goblin AI by making them attack and I’ll also be adding a levitation spell. Bailey will be finishing the town tileset and will get that in-engine.

This is how our progress looks when laid out on a Burndown chart. The trend shows a negative correlation which means we are on track. We went from being behind where we wanted to be to being on track all the way to being ahead of where we wanted to be.

As you can see, we are steadily progressing to the point where we are on track to get everything in place for the BAFTA deadline. I have no issues to report in regards to my team as we’re doing quality. Nath reported some bugs to me which I’ll act on and fix. We’ve also been getting regular feedback from Anth and Bence which is greatly appreciated.

Until next time,
Luke

Synoptic Project – Pitch

As part of the curriculum, it is stated that we need to pitch an idea for our synoptic project. The way it works is that we all pitch with people voting on the project they’d like to work on. The teachers then decide on the projects and the groups that work on them.

With that being said, this blog post will cover my pitch and my thoughts throughout the way. Download the file here:

My pitch is what last year’s Self-eSteam multiplayer mode would have been if it was completed.

My pitch is Random Racers. Random Racers is a project I was working on last year yet was never finished as I focused on other things. However, for the pitch, I decided that I would revive it.

I’ll now sum up the powerpoint to inlcude the important points:

Elevator Pitch – The best way to sum up Random Racers is by describing it as Wacky Races in game form with elements of Overwatch and MarioKart.

Idea/Product – The idea is of an engaging multiplayer party game where players race against each other. It is targeted at PC, PS4 & Xbox One.

Research – Reference includes Overwatch’s ability system, MarioKart’s racing and pickups and the unlockable system of the Lego franchise.

Style Guide – Heavily stylized with bright colours. Emission also used.

Target Audience – PEGI 3. Particularly appealing to kids yet fun for all of the family.

The playboard of Random Racers

Role Breakdown – 1 Programmer, 2 Environmental Artists, 2 Character Artists

MVP – Consists of core racing game functionality. 

Stretch Goals –  Focuses on progression such as unlockables as well as unique abilities.

Proposed Production Schedule

As you can see, I have everything in place to pitch on Wednesday. The project is one that has potential and could actually be really fun if done right. However, I’m going to be voting on Bailey’s pitch which would allow us to work on our BAFTA game for Synoptic thus killing two birds with one stone. As far as this game is concerned , it’s a win-win as it either gets chosen and I can see what the end product of my idea looks like or it will eventually get made by me and that would be another project under my belt.

Until next time,

Luke